Senate body finally opens inquiry into P900M Malampaya fund scam
MANILA, Philippines—The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is finally opening its inquiry into the alleged P900-million Malampaya fund scam late November.
The committee chair, Senator Teofisto Guingona III, said he has finally scheduled the hearing because of the availability of a state auditor who could testify on the matter.
“More or less Susan Garcia is free,’’ Guingona said of the auditor from the Commission on Audit’s special audits office. “So that will happen in the latter part of November.’’
Guingona has been criticized by the Senate minority bloc of being quick to investigate anomalies involving the opposition, but not those involving administration allies.
The committee conducted a series of hearings on the P10-billion pork barrel scam that riveted the country in 2013.
Opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr. are now being tried for plunder before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the scam.
A subcommittee has also inquired into the allegedly overpriced P2.28-billion Makati City Hall parking building, where Vice President Jejomar Binay has been accused of committing corruption and accumulating ill-gotten wealth.
Ahead of the inquiry into the alleged misuse of the Malampaya funds, the committee is set to inquire into the allegedly overpriced P700-million Iloilo Convention Center, a pet project of Senate President Franklin Drilon.
The committee earlier set the first hearing on the Malampaya fund mess in October but had to reset it because COA Auditor Grace Pulido-Tan and Garcia were abroad at the time.
Estrada has been pressing Guingona on the matter for months now, lamenting that the committee has not acted on it nearly a year after it was exposed.
All that time Guingona said the committee had been gathering information to prepare for the hearing.
Alleged pork barrel mastermind, Janet Lim Napoles, tagged Ruby Tuason as the one who coaxed her to convert proceeds from the Malampaya gas project purportedly into campaign funds in 2010, and took much of the kickbacks.
Napoles, who dealt with Tuason on projects involving the pork barrel of lawmakers, said it all started when Tuason showed her a list of government funds amounting to P25 billion from Malacañang.
Napoles said Tuason referred her to the P900 million Malampaya funds that would be coursed through the Department of Agrarian Reform, and handed her a special allotment release order dated Nov. 19, 2009.
The Department of Budget and Management cleared the release of P900 million from the Malampaya Fund in December 2009 for assistance to agrarian reform beneficiaries affected by powerful storms “Ondoy’’ and “Pepeng.’’
Prior to this, then Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman earlier authorized the release of P300 million from the Land Bank of the Philippines to 12 NGOs controlled by Napoles, government documents showed.
Begun in 2002, the Malampaya project involves the extraction of natural gas from the waters off Palawan. The government collects royalties from the project.
Jinggoy Estrada decries Senate body’s slow probe on Malampaya fund scam
Now, Napoles points finger at Tuason
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